Health Briefs - Smoking and Heart Disease

January 23, 2009

Smoking May Up the Risk of Heart Rhythm Disorder

The list of reasons to stop smoking keeps getting longer. A recent study from the Netherlands reported that smokers and ex-smokers are at greater risk of developing the heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation (AF).

AF is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the heart and causes a rapid uncoordinated heartbeat. By itself it’s usually not life-threatening, but it can eventually contribute to heart failure and stroke.

The study - conducted by researchers at Erasmus University and published in the American Heart Journal - monitored nearly 6,000 Dutch smokers and former smokers aged 55 and older over a seven-year period. Even after adjusting for other risk factors, the results showed both current and former smokers had higher rates of atrial fibrillation than people who had never smoked.

Yet one more reason to stay a non-smoker, and to finally quit for good if you’re still smoking.

Elderly with High Blood Pressure May Need More Sleep

If you’re elderly and suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension), sleeping too little may put you at greater risk of developing heart disease.

That’s the finding of a Japanese research team that reported elderly patients with high blood pressure were more susceptible to heart disease if they slept less than seven-and-a-half hours each night. The results of the study were recently reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers spent more than four years monitoring the sleep habits of more than 1,200 senior citizens suffering from high blood pressure. Patients who slept less than seven-and-a-half hours had a one-third higher heart disease risk compared to those who slept more.

Lack of sufficient sleep has been linked to many serious health problems including diabetes and obesity. The newly-released study reinforces the importance of sleep in maintaining good health and the need to factor in a patient’s sleep habits when formulating a hypertension treatment plan.

Heart Failure Patients Face Greater Risk of Bone Fractures

A new study carries an important warning: Patients suffering from heart failure face a much higher risk of bone fractures than patients with other heart conditions. That may not sound dire, but hip and other bone fractures can be serious, even fatal, for elderly patients.

The study, conducted by a team of Canadian researchers and published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, tracked the health of more than 16,000 heart disease patients over a three-year period and compared the rates of bone fractures of patients being treated for congestive heart failure with those suffering from other heart conditions. The heart failure patients had a fracture rate more than four times higher, and the rate of hip fractures was even greater. [Heart failure describes the chronic condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood that circulates to the body’s organs.]

The research findings suggest that heart failure patients may not be getting enough calcium and vitamin D through diet or supplements, nor partaking in enough exercise to help maintain and build stronger bones.

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